City Secret – Razia Sultana’s Tomb, Pahari Bhojla
India’s first woman ruler is sleeping here.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Razia Sultana’s tomb chamber in Old Delhi. No dome, no crowd here. This is no place for a queen. As the first woman ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, as well as of South Asia, Razia (d. 1240) rode elephants, fought in battlefields; loved a slave, married a rebel; and lost an empire.
But this tomb — believed to be of Razia’s, as an Archaeological Survey of India slab puts it — is no indicator of her legend. And that’s the beauty of this destination. Like a tattered history book, it lies forgotten in a jumble of the Walled City bylanes. Surrounded by brick apartments (air-conditioners jutting out from them), the two crumbling stone mounds (the other said to be the tomb of Razia’s sister) sit like the last remaining relics, waiting to be trampled over by the onward march of the Modern Times.
A delightful walk through shaded alleys, teeming with chai stalls, hair-cutting salons and biryani joints, leads to the tomb’s iron-gate entrance. Inside, a covered courtyard to the left serves as an impromptu mosque for locals. If not the prayer hour, it is empty and peaceful. If you have company, try knocking at the neighbouring houses to get access to their rooftops. The view is lovely.
Where Pahari Bhojla, near Chitli Qabar, Old Delhi
The view from above
Are you Razia?
The neighbourhood skyline